WESTON, Mo. — After a non-voluntary two-week break, West Platte returned to the field with a stiff challenge.
Mid-Buchanan — the defending KCI Conference champions — came to Benner Park on Thursday, April 6. West Platte managed only one hit in a 10-0 five-inning loss in the first meeting between the two teams since last season when the Bluejays upset Mid-Buchanan in the Class 2 District 16 title game due to inclement weather.
With a completely rehauled pitching staff from a year ago, West Platte entered the matchup after 16 days in batting cages with limited fielding work on the turf surface of Rudolph Eskridge Stadium.
“At the beginning of the year we said we were not going to be where we were the past couple of years with pitching not being able to get us out of a jam,” West Platte coach Tanner Lawson said. “Definitely, our young kids have to learn how to throw strikes, be more competitive. Nobody wants to see a bunch of walks.”
Mid-Buchanan walked eight times against sophomore starting pitcher Wyatt Kleman and sophomore Noah Johnson.
Klemen worked four innings and allowed eight runs, while Johnson threw one inning and gave up two more. The Dragons scored in four of the five innings.
Weather has limited game action, but West Platte started 0-2 with losses against two of the KCI’s expected top teams.
“We opened up with Lawson, which is a darn good ballclub” Lawson said, “and this one we just saw tonight is really good so it’s a tough break starting your season off like that so we’re just going to try and focus on getting back to fundamentals and competing and hopefully getting a win or two the next couple of weeks to build some momentum.”
While West Platte didn’t return any pitchers, the top of the lineup provides reason for optimism.
The top six hitters all boast solid experience but were shut down in a matchup with Mid-Buchanan ace Nick McClanahan. The bottom of the lineup helped produce the only real threat in the third inning after McClanahan hit freshman outfielder Phillip Pattison with a pitch.
Johnson then recorded a single to right field, and Connor McNair, who walked to lead off the bottom of the first, grounded out to advance both runners. McClanahan then struck out senior Kyle Tabaka and sophomore Gavin Davis to end the inning.
West Platte went 0-for-6 in the Nos. 4-5-6 spots with junior Grant Eagen and seniors Jack Summers and Alec Carson. Eagen returned to the field for the opener and expects to play third base and pitch despite coming off an ACL tear this past fall during football season.
“My parents didn’t and a lot of people didn’t (think I’d be back), but I had it in my mind that I would,” Eagen said. “I wasn’t going to rush it and my doctor doesn’t usually release people this early and he said he would only release me if I was ready so it felt good.”
West Platte 13, KC Lutheran 3
The Bluejays posted their first win Monday, April 10 at Benner Park with a walkoff single from junior Truman Gillis.
West Platte (1-2) scored in all six innings, including a five-run first. Summers drove in two with a single, and Tabaka and Johnson added back-to-back RBI doubles to provide a big answer after Lutheran took a 1-0 lead in the top of the inning.
Eagen went 3-for-4 with an RBI triple in the fifth, and he scored twice. Summers finished with three RBIs and two runs, while Tabaka had three hits and two RBIs.
Nathan Plummer and Gillis pitched for West Platte. Plummer earned the win after allowing three runs — two earned — in 4 2/3 innings, while Gillis allowed only one hit and two walks in his 1 1/3 innings.